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Smart spending: how not to make false economies on holiday

Jasmine Birtles 22nd Jun 2022 2 Comments

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Holidays are a prolific area for false economies, from travel insurance (lack of) to currency exchange to mobile phone costs…we all do it and then kick ourselves afterwards! It is important you take care with smart spending on holiday, to ensure you aren’t overpaying or being ripped-off!

So take a deep breath, step back and think about your holiday of a lifetime. We have everything you need when it comes to smart spending for your holiday. With a bit of thought you won’t make false economies on holiday, particularly if you take up the tips below…


Saving on flights

This is an area where you can make great savings if you time it right and do a bit of research. However, you can also get caught out with annoying extras and end up kicking yourself for being so cheap! In fact, a survey by Sainsbury’s Bank Travel Insurance found that 15% of people regretted buying cheap plane seats but then paying more for allocated seating. Men were more likely to regret this (17%) compared to women (14%) and 18-34 year olds more likely to regret this (23%) compared to 35-54 year olds (14%) or those aged 55+ (10%)

They also found that 11% of people regretted not buying enough baggage allowance for a flight and then paying for additional allowance at the airport. Men were more likely to regret this (13%) compared to women (8%) and 18-34 year olds more likely to regret this (20%) compared to 35-54 year olds (9%) or those aged 55+ (4%)

So here are tips for not paying extra:

  1. Weigh and measure your luggage if you’re taking a low-cost airline. It’s boring but they do mean it when they give weight and size restrictions.
  2. If you need a lot of luggage, pay the extra before or go with a normal airline. Quite often the ‘cheap’ airline with extra luggage and nice seating can end up being more expensive than the normal airline – particularly if you have to travel miles to get to their out-of-town airport too.
  3. Get clever with your packing. There are lots of ways you can condense your packing. Think about the clothes you can mix and match. Also buying a few temporary bits of toiletries at your destination this can be the cheapest and lightest way to travel


book direct with the airline

We are all, rightly, excited by the flight comparison sites. There seem to be so many ways to get cheaper flights through them. Now that Google has got in on the act we have a huge choice of ways to compare.

However, these comparison sites – and particularly the Google one – don’t always give you the best deal.

You could be better off – for service and even cheapness – going direct to an airline’s own website. Feel free to use the comparison site to compare prices, but once you find a journey you like the look of, try checking out the airline’s own site to buy it. If your journey is complex you may be better doing it over the phone or in person in a travel agency.

Travel expert Simon Calder says “I am constantly being contacted by people who have made false economies by going for what’s cheapest online. The number of complaints and requests for advice coming in to me would be halved if people didn’t book the cheapest flight they find on fare-comparison websites, only to discover they’re dealing with a firm in Sweden or Switzerland or Bangalore that really doesn’t have customer service at its heart.”



Saving on hotels

You would think that using one of the many hotel comparison sites would get you the best deal around.

Not always so.

You may get a cheap deal but, what regular travellers know is, when hotels see that you’ve come through one of those sites they can sometimes give you the worst rooms. You could find yourself overlooking the bins. So your ‘deal’ isn’t nearly as good as you thought.

Having said that, it’s worth seeing what is available on these sites and then contacting hotels direct to see if you can get the same or a better price. If you book directly on the hotel’s website, or on the phone, you are likely to get a better room for your money.

Quite often you are also better off avoiding hotels altogether and using one of the peer-to-peer sites like Airbnb instead. However, be careful here. Airbnb can be good, particularly if you book well ahead, but in very busy and popular places like London and New York you can find yourself in a poky and noisy room with noisy buses and cars outside. Read the reviews very carefully before booking.


Saving on insurance

Travelling abroad without insurance has to be the daftest of false economies, particularly if you’re in America. Smart spending on a holiday abroad certainly includes travel insurance.

Sadly, though, many of us still do it. In 2017 25% of Brits travelled without travel insurance, even though the average costs just £31 – and only £21 for those aged between 26 30.

Travel insurers do pay out too. In 2015 they paid out £365 million in claims to over 490,000 individuals and families.

Medical claims can be particularly expensive. The average medical claim was over £1,200 in 2016 and one Brit travelling abroad recently built up a medical bill of £760,000 while staying in America. On an average UK salary of £27,500 this would take 25 years to repay.

So, you can see how sensible it is to have some sort of travel insurance when you travel abroad.

Even if you are over 65 or you have pre-existing medical conditions you can still get reasonably-priced insurance. See our article here on cheaper insurance for the over-65s for links to specialist insurance companies.

If you travel abroad a number of times a year you would be better off getting a well-priced annual multi-trip policy. Take a look at our comparison site here to find the best deal for you.


Saving on currency

Smart spending is imperative for your holiday when it comes to currencies. There are a few mantras to remember when it comes to travel money:

  • Consider a mix of cash and card. It can be helpful to have a bit of cash when you’re abroad. Some places don’t take cards so, if only for safety, it’s a good idea to have some cash with you.
  • If you take money out of an ATM abroad, go for the ‘local currency’ option as it tends to be better value.
  • Don’t exchange at the airport. The currency converters at airports always have expensive rates. You could book it beforehand online and then pick it up at the airport, but don’t leave it until the last minute and change your pounds into foreign money just before you get on the plane. You will lose out.
  • Consider a prepaid card. These can be a good way of spending abroad as you lock in the exchange rate before you go and if you lose the card you can stop it immediately.
  • Use a comparison site a few days before you leave so that you can have the money delivered if you need it.

Sainsbury’s Bank has a handy Online Rate Calculator to work out how much foreign currency you’ll get for your holiday spending money.  You can check rates and place your order in just a few, simple steps.

Also if you buy travel insurance with Sainsbury’s Bank you can get £5 off when you spend £500 or more on travel money at one of its in store bureaux Interested?  Have a look at their site for full details.


Saving on your mobile

Mobile phone bills can rocket when you’re away. However, if you only go away occasionally each year it’s probably not worth upgrading to a more expensive monthly tariff. Martyn Gould, founder of mobile phone comparison site Yaboo, says “Don’t be afraid of incurring penalties – one in six members of the public would be better off paying out of bundle charges than they would be signing up to a bigger contract package ‘just in case’. For example, a £25 per month tariff with out of bundle charges of say £1.75 is still cheaper than a £35 tariff.”

Another way to save, while still keeping your usual tariff, is to use a local pre-pay SIM relevant to the area you’re visiting abroad. Remember to upload your contacts to the cloud or your mobile to ensure you always have access to them.


Do you have any top tips for smart spending on holiday? Share them in the comments below!



DisclaimerMoneyMagpie is not a licensed financial advisor and therefore information found here including opinions, commentary, suggestions or strategies are for informational, entertainment or educational purposes only. This should not be considered as financial advice. Anyone thinking of investing should conduct their own due diligence

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Nigel Compton
Nigel Compton
1 year ago

Many tips already experienced with, also take a low % credit card for emergencies.

5 years ago

Sound advice for holiday spending.

Jasmine Birtles

Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.

Jasmine Birtles

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